Wheeling Township elementary school officials will surround non-English speaking students with instruction this summer to help them reach higher ground academically.

Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 officials gave administrators the green light recently to develop a summer “immersion” English language program.

The six-week program would give students with limited proficiency in English extra instruction to broaden their understanding of the language.

“It’s reading skills in English, it is writing skills in English, it is speaking skills in English,” Superintendent Lloyd “Bud” DesCarpentrie told the District 21 school board.

District officials introduced the program just after Assessment Director Robert F. Gerry said the system’s limited English proficiency enrollment will rise from 1,088 to 1,277 students next year.

The district will hire several more teachers to serve those students, Gerry said.

District 21 officials said the program will help students reduce the time they spend in its bilingual program during the school year and enter mainstream classes sooner.

Mainstreaming students sooner helps the district financially and improves their achievement levels, officials said.

The program would run from 9 a.m. to noon daily serving up to 575 students at Whitman, Twain and Field elementary schools and Holmes Middle School all in Wheeling.

It will include reading, language and music. The district hopes to involve Illinois State University interns in the program and will seek a grant from the university.

DesCarpentrie said the program could cost up to $ 175,000 and include busing.

“It’s an investment we’re making that will pay off,” board member Timothy S. Hilgenberg said.

Parents will be encouraged to enroll their children in the free, voluntary program that will include bus service.

The district is eyeing a tie-in with the Wheeling Park District to offer daylong activities for children.

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